Travis County Council of Defense Records
An Inventory of the Collection
The Council of National Defense was established in 1916 by the United States government to coordinate resources and industries for national defense and stimulate civilian morale during World War I. The Texas State Council of Defense, a branch of the national organization, was established on April 9, 1917 and one of its responsibilities was to coordinate state war work and organize and direct local councils, of which the Travis County Council of Defense was one. The local councils set up programs to generate patriotism, sell war bonds, recruit soldiers, and maintain enthusiasm and support for the war effort. The published suggestions for activities from the State Council included: promote the patriotic spirit of the people and seek to educate them as to the magnitude of the task ahead; aid in recruiting for the National Guard; aid in recruiting for the regular army; aid in getting idle workmen and boys below military age to help on the farms; aid in every possible way the successful flotation of the Liberty Loans; aid the county committees that are engaged in the promotion of farming; urge the production to the upmost, of staple, non-perishable food crops; conduct campaigns to reduce waste in the home and aid in the formation of Home Guards. It was suggested that the local council organize into finance, publicity, sanitation and medicine, food supply and conservation, labor, military affairs and protection committees.
The Travis County Council of Defense was organized in the summer of 1917 with F. T. Connerly (Chairman), Emma Burleson (Secretary), Joe J. Schneider, R. G. Crosby, J. B. Norwood, Shirley Gregg and H. S. Lawson appointed to the Council by the Travis County Judge J. D. Pickle. By 1918 R. G. Crosby was the Chairman and the group had expanded to fourteen members. Emma Burleson was also appointed Chairwoman of the Travis County branch of the Woman's Committee, Texas State Division, Council of National Defense in May of 1918. The Women's Committee promoted health, provided recreation and aided in war drives. The Women's Committee was expected to work in close cooperation with the County Council. Work by these organizations continued for a short time after the Armistice to assist returning soldiers. The last Texas State Council of Defense meeting was held in June of 1919 and the Final Report of the Texas State Council of Defense was published later than summer. It is assumed that the local councils also ceased operations at this time.
The Travis County Council of Defense Records consist of meeting minutes, correspondence, bulletins, press releases, reports, pamphlets and newspaper clippings maintained by Emma Burleson, the Secretary of the Council, dating from 1917 to 1920 that document the activities of the organization. The correspondence includes internal requests from Chairman R. G. Crosby, updates and instructions from the Texas State Council of Defense and the Council of National Defense as well as letters from other federal agencies. Of interest are letters from local citizens about questions of loyalty to the United States. Special projects such as Americanization, child welfare, the Texas Food and Feed Production campaign, registration of Mexican nationals residing in Texas, the Student Nurse Reserve, and the U. S. Public Service Reserve are also represented. The Americanization materials contain documentation of the request by the pastors of the Lutheran Churches of Travis County to allow them to continue to conduct services in the German language for the older members of the congregations that did not speak English. Most, but not all, of the Texas State Council of Defense Bulletins published several times a month from 1917 to 1919, a few Council of the National Defense Bulletins and other federal government war related pamphlets are included as well.
In addition to the Travis County Council of Defense records there are a small amount of materials related to Burleson's positions as the Chairwoman of the Women's Committee and the Austin Committee for Armenian Relief and founding member of the Patriotic League.
Restrictions on Access
Open to all users.
Restrictions on Use
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
Travis County Council of Defense (AR.1996.023). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.
Donor #: DO/1996/008
Donation Date: 1996
Finding aid created and encoded by Molly Hults in 2016.
Detailed Description of the Collection